Paul Heaton – The 8th
The 8th is a rather confusing album. It’s the first thing we’ve heard from ex-The Beautiful South member in a while, after his previous solo albums flopped in the charts, so people are hoping to be surprised and amazed.
First and foremost, it’s a concept album which is difficult to get right in the first place. At times, the music overtakes the lyrics and the story can be forgotten and sometimes, you find yourself trying to pay attention to the story to the extent where you forget the music is there. With narration from The Wire’s Reg E Carthy, the actual songs begin to feel like interludes between these spoken-word pieces and can be over-shadowed by his deep, booming voice.
It tells a story loosely based around the seven sins and was written by English playwright Che Walker, with appearances from many different artists. Jacqui Abbot from The Beautiful South appears on Envy, a song which musically sounds very similar to the music that Heaton used to make, but is lyrically much darker. A personal highlight on the album is Gluttony with an appearance from Kenny Anderson. The strange and eerie backing-track, teamed with Anderson’s melodic voice, mix incredibly well together. This mixture of voices means that every song has a different sound and it makes for a very eclectic, yet very interesting listen.
Even though it can be difficult to get your point across with a concept album, Heaton has made a good choice with the inclusion of spoken-word pieces so that the songs can simply be listened to. The fact that Heaton doesn’t appear on the album until the penultimate song Gossip is a bit disappointing, if fans of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South wanted to hear his voice throughout the album. but in the context of the album it flows well.
It must be remembered that this album, or “soul opera” as it has been called, was originally written to be performed live and the live experience of The 8th might just not transfer well into a recording. Even though at times it can be quite a difficult listen, The 8th is lyrically a great story and musically a mixture of all the good parts of many different genres.
Standout track: Gluttony
The 8th was out on 1st July.
Listen to Jacqui Abbot performing Envy from the album here: